Archive for the ‘Jean Webster’ Category

A 2013 Wish List

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

By Jean Webster

With the departure of the god awful 2012 – Hurricane Sandy and its disastrous meeting with the nor’easter, the tragedy at the Sandy Hook School, two severe snowstorms – I am hoping to conjure up some magic by putting my 2013 wish list out there.

1. I wish that our Congress people – whether Democrat, Republican or Independent – could forget their differences, and work for the good of the country and the people who elected them. This means putting the welfare of the country ahead of people with special interests who treat our representatives as their personal “fixers.”  We have gone from a great country to a one where too many people are without jobs and security. Where the homeless population has outgrown our ability to help them. Where families are making their homes in shelters. Where schools are in financial trouble – unless they are charter schools and financed with public money, or by parents or by large corporations. Where the richest get richer and the poorest have no health care, and are blamed because they don’t have jobs. A vicious cycle.

2. I wish people would show more respect for teachers and the work they do under circumstances that become more difficult every year. In the past, teachers were respected for their knowledge, their work for students, the hours they spent in and after school. Parents believed that if a child got into trouble, it was because she or he had misbehaved. Today, that feeling has turned around and many parents believe that when something goes wrong it’s the teacher at fault, not their child. Teachers should be paid a salary commensurate with their education and the marketplace. Many communities vote on local school budgets, and townspeople believe they can save money by keeping teachers’ salaries low. But higher pay would result in more community respect. We admire and appreciate professional ball players and movie stars, and aren’t they among the highest paid workers in this country?

3. Remaining in the classroom mode, I wish that Governor Paul LePage would openly support schools and teachers here in Maine. In the fall, he said that students from Maine schools do not get into good colleges because of the poor education they get. The response came from many graduates, and it was dramatic. Their letters to LePage and to newspaper editors, informed him that many have gone on to higher education within the state, and beyond.

More recently, LePage said, “If you want a good education (K-12), go to a private school. If you can’t afford it…tough luck! You can go to public school.” How can a governor dis his own state’s education system without offering ideas for improvement?

4. Finally, like other Americans, I wish we could solve the gun control problem. On Christmas Eve, just days after the slaughter in Connecticut, a man carrying a semi-automatic weapon walked the streets in Portland, Me., ending up on Back Cove, a popular walking trail. Sixty-five people called the police. The man said, “I’m not making a statement.” He said that the gun was a tool to defend himself. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, he admitted having bad memories. But, without going into detail about one man with a gun, it’s clear there is a culture of gun violence in the United States. Maine has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, but in the 11 years since we moved here, I’ve seen a marked increase in gun violence. Just this week, an older man shot his tenants over the matter of parking in the driveway during a snowstorm. What to do? Gun enthusiasts and Second Amendment followers won’t like it. Guns kill. Why have a gun in your possession unless you plan to kill someone? Maine, like much of our country, has a tradition of hunting. But, what can you hunt in a city or town that’s far from the woods? I can understand people enjoying sharp shooting as a sport. But, in either instance – hunting or target shooting – your gun should be locked up when not in use.

I don’t really believe in magic. But, you never know. My wishes might join with others’ and result in solutions.



Gay Marriage in Maine: Signed, Sealed

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

By Jean Webster

It’s official. Same-sex marriage is legal in the state of Maine, but may face a challenge.

Just four weeks after a majority of Mainers – 54 percent, in fact – voted in favor of same-sex marriage, the referendum has been certified by Governor Paul LePage. Gay couples in Maine can set their wedding dates, though they must wait until the end of the month, when the law goes into effect.

Maine joins eight other states – Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia – in agreeing that gay people have the right to marry. But Maine went one better. It is the first state to approve gay marriage by popular vote. Gay rights activists call it an important step forward.

Prospective couples are rejoicing over the vote and the governor’s swift signing it into law. However, there is still a strong movement in Maine – and throughout the country – to overturn these rights by giving opponents of gay marriage another chance at the ballot box.

For years, many Mainers have supported the rights of gays and lesbians, including their right to marry. In fact, in May of 2009, Governor John Baldacci signed a bill in favor of gay marriage that came through legislative approval. At the same time, the opposition rallied enough signatures to put a referendum on the 2009 ballot, and gay marriage was rejected by voters in a “people’s veto.” If not for that referendum, Maine would have been the first state to legalize same sex marriage through legislative process and a governor’s signature.

That referendum was brought about, and eventually succeeded, through the work of the National Organization for Marriage, the leading opposition group to gay marriage in the United States, along with various religious and family watch groups. Funds in the millions of dollars came into the state from near and far to support the veto resolution.

And, NOM is already rallying its troops to overturn this year’s vote, just as it did in 2009.

According to Justin Alfond, Portland’s State Senator, there is nothing to stop these groups from doing it again. The law does not restrict what can be put to a vote. But Alfond admits it would be more difficult for NOM this time.

“Taking away rights is a much bigger chore than maintaining the status quo,” he said. Also, if the anti-gay marriage groups hope to get on the next ballot, they’d have to collect more than 57,000 names by Jan. 24, 2013.

There is no doubt in my mind that the foes of same-sex marriage are already gathering funds and signatures to get this new law annulled. The cry through much of the country is that marriage should be between a man and a woman, as it states in the Bible. Opponents of gay marriage have come to call heterosexual marriage “a building block of society.”

These opponents say they aren’t attacking the gay lifestyle. They just want to preserve traditional marriage. (If the divorce rate teaches us anything, it is that traditional marriage is pretty shaky.)

Others believe that the marriage of two men or two women endangers the marriages of the rest of us. (I haven’t figured that one out yet.)

Throughout the campaign the hue and cry in television ads claimed that gay teachers would teach their students about the gay and lesbian lifestyle.

In spite of the slim possibility that the new law could be rejected, gay couples are already seeking wedding locations so they can plan their weddings as soon as the new law takes effect, on Dec. 29. Because that’s a Saturday, some towns are considering whether to keep their municipal buildings open to accommodate gay couples.

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan would like his city to hold the first same-sex ceremony, but he says that whenever it happens “I want to be there.”

Keep Women-Hating Men from Office

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

By Jean Webster

The 2012 election could have the greatest impact on American women since Roe v. Wade in 1973. But this time the impact would be negative.

If the Romney/Ryan duo wins this election, they could pull in more Republican Congressmen on their coattails. And, I’ve heard enough from these politicians to be convinced that if they are in the White House with a majority in the Congress, the clock will be turned back decades for women.

Just as a reminder, here’s what has already happened, and what Romney’s minions have said in recent months.

This year the great State of Texas cut off funding for Planned Parenthood clinics that provide family planning and other services to about half of the 130,000 low-income women enrolled in the program. The service includes cancer screenings, but not abortions. The reason? The Republican-led Legislature passed a law banning funds to any organizations that are linked to abortion providers, even though no state money goes to pay for abortions.

It does seem that Republicans cannot think about women without their insulting and inflammatory remarks. For starters, there’s Todd Akin, seeking a Senate seat in Missouri, and his “legitimate rape” quote, in which he declared that “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

That remark has now been trumped by the Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock who said that pregnancies resulting from rape are a “gift from God” and what “God intended to happen.”

And how did Romney respond to Mourdock’s assertion? He doubled his endorsement of Mourdock’s campaign.

Then there’s Joe Walsh, who is running against Tammy Duckworth for a House seat in Illinois. In 2004, Duckworth lost both her legs while serving with the Army in Iraq. Walsh compared her negatively to John McCain, who – he said – never used his military career in his political campaigns. On top of that, he’s accused Duckworth of not being “a true hero.” So, she’s not a hero, just a woman who has made her military service central to her campaign.

Then, Walsh said about Duckworth, “What else has she done? Female? Wounded veteran? Ehhhhh.”

“What else has she done?” “The female body has ways to shut the whole [rape] thing down?” “The child as a result of rape is a gift from God?”

The contempt for women – women like their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters – is evident in every one of these remarks.

And, it’s pretty clear that Romney and Ryan are on the same side of the fence. Ryan has been very vocal about his own opposition to abortion and Planned Parenthood. Obviously, Romney chose him for his stand on these issues. Let Ryan talk about it, so the presidential candidate stays clear of these difficult topics.

There’s more.

Earlier this year, Roy Blount, another Missouri Republican, sponsored an amendment that would allow employers to refuse to provide any insurance coverage that went against their beliefs or moral convictions.  When Romney was asked where he stood on Blount’s measure, he said, “Of course I support the Blount amendment.”

Romney later said he doesn’t believe that businesses or bureaucrats should decide whether businesses must offer coverage for women’s contraception. But, that sounds like he’d leave the decision up to business.

And, where does that leave women who need this coverage?

Out in the cold. Without insurance coverage. Without the help of Planned Parenthood.

And, if Romney had his way, without equal pay for equal work, women wouldn’t be able to afford their own coverage.

The choice is clear. Vote them out.


The Honey Harvest

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

By Jean Webster

On a recent Saturday, John and I met a few local beekeepers at Dragonfly Cove Farm, in Dresden, Me., to harvest this season’s honey.

The room we use is just off the big farm kitchen. With a cement floor and enough space for two honey extractors, it’s become the traditional spot for removing honey from beehives. (The extractor is the machine that spins the honeycomb and removes honey via centrifugal force.) Dragonfly owners, Marge and Joe, also raise ducks, chickens, geese and goats; that room holds several ceiling-to-floor freezers for the meat they sell.

Unlike last year’s “take” of 120 pounds, this time we brought only five frames of honey – about 13 pounds. Obviously 2011 was an exceptional season. These frames are smaller than those holding the bees’ year round honey supply. An oblong wood and wax frame, measuring 18 x 5½ inches, it reminds me of small old-fashioned window screens.

To start, the beekeeper uses an electrically heated knife to skim the wax the bees made to hold the seasoned honey in the cell of the frame. (The cell is a hexagon-shaped compartment of a comb. Bees store food and raise brood – immature bees – in these compartments.) The skimmed wax and some honey drop into a wooden box for later enjoyment, or to strain and add to the honey flow. When all is done, this pile is a mixture of some of everyone’s honey.

Since we arrived last, we waited our turn on the extractor. John helped out by turning its crank, while others kept it from jumping off the stand.  The extractor is a simple contraption that stands about four feet high, a plain metal cylinder with clasps inside to hold the frames in place. The method is simple, too. Turn the crank and eventually the honey flows down the inside of the machine, out the spigot and into a container. The best is a plastic bucket with two strainers to separate the honey from any wax or – yes, this can happen – any bee parts that made it into the flowing honey.

Part of the treat of being at Dragonfly Farm is “time out for lunch,” often one of Marge’s hearty soups, homemade bread and honey butter. Her kitchen is large and inviting, with cooking and baking aromas, and a big friendly dog begging to be petted. This year we had a tasty goat meat and veggie soup, with corn bread on the side. The group usually supplements with food to share.

Once everyone’s honey was harvested, we divvied up the wax and honey mixture from the “drop box.” At home we strained our share, adding the golden liquid to our own honey and saving the “waxy residue” for special treats. We’ll share our dozen jars with family and friends.

That’s the harvesting story of  backyard beekeeping. But, people often wonder about the danger of CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) to our bees. The truth is that the backyard honeybee’s life is simpler and less dangerous than the “professional” bees, which are carted around the country to pollinate plants on large farms. Right here in Maine, working honeybees pollinate the huge up-country blueberry crop.

Unlike those bees, ours have a varied diet. Within a few miles of our property, they have the choice of flowers, weeds and other plants from early spring through the fall, as well as the sugar water we feed them in the off-season. The “professional” bees generally feed on one crop – like blueberries – for a long period, making for a less healthy diet.

Also, at a meeting this summer we learned the results of a Harvard University study investigating the effects of pesticides – specifically neonicotinoids – on honeybees. Large agra-farms inject pesticides into their seeds to make them resistant to disease. The Harvard study found that incorporating even a small amount of these pesticides into a hive’s sugar water in the spring caused significant honeybee deaths. But not all at once.

That first spring, bees feeding on the treated sugar water survived into fall. Soon, though, the researchers found dead bees in and around the hives. The pesticides were being passed from one generation to the next, weakening the “hive.” By the time the snow flew that winter, hundreds of bees had dropped dead. The longer the pesticides were in the hive, the worse the results.

A quote from the Bulletin of Insectology states that “researchers found that 94 percent of the hives had died after exposure to the neonicotinoid pesticide.” (Read more about the Harvard Study at

Backyard beekeepers cannot combat the practices of the large agra-farms. But we can maintain a centuries-long tradition.


No Cell Phones at Nana’s Table

Monday, August 20th, 2012

By Jean Webster

When our children and grandchildren visit during the summer we total ten people around the yellow wood dining room table. The three extra leaves mean we all fit at the same table at mealtimes.

This July the view from my kitchen made me smile, at first. It brought to mind my Italian grandmother’s basement dining room. That table held all our family for Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter dinners. While her tablecloth was white, we use cloth place mats and (often) cloth napkins, with a different colored ring for each person.

But, the difference between Grandma’s table and mine is more than tablecloth versus place mats. That 1950’s tableau included no extraneous gadgets … no “social media.” The only annoyance was when “the boys” started jiggling their legs in rhythm, making dishes and silverware bounce around on the table.

When I looked over my family scene last month nearly everyone waiting for blueberry pancakes was looking down, engrossed. Our son on his Mac, checking projects at work. Our daughter and daughter-in-law checking emails on their iPads. The grandchildren – including an 18 year old, a 15-year old and two 13-year olds – were likewise captivated by their phones or iPadS. All at my dining room table!

(The only person not on a phone was our son-in-law. He was reading the newspaper. How to please the in-laws. )

I know this isn’t a new topic among people of a certain age and their younger family and friends. I too grew up in the mid-20th century, with one telephone in the house, a mailbox on the door, and paper and pen for writing letters.

I admit that I’ve been working on computers since the early ’80’s, and I couldn’t do without mine. It’s much easier than a typewriter, even the electric ones. And, I love email. It gives me the chance to keep in touch with family and friends all over the world.  And yes, I have a cell phone. But that’s all it is. A portable phone. For emergencies, or to let people know I’ll be late, or … “Help, I need directions.” Honestly.

It wasn’t easy convincing a bunch of grownups that there were just too many gadgets at Nana’s table. We got some stony looks – mostly from our own children. (Shades of their teenage years.)  And excuses. “Checking in at work.” “You know, we’re never off, even when we’re hundreds of miles away.” In the end, we convinced them: No electronics at mealtimes.

Eventually, after everybody but the 15-year old and a 13-year old had left, we were stricter. No electronics at the table at any time. That included evenings when we were playing games after dinner. “Mexican Train, anyone?”

In Maine we have a “distracted driving law,” but because a few pedestrians  have been struck when crossing the street while “on the phone,” there is now talk of a law regarding distracted walkers. It’s still in the talking stage.

However, we had to come up with our own “no cell phone” decree in our 125-year old candy store in Boothbay Harbor. To us, cell phones and a 19th century candy store do not mix. But, it took an annoying customer for us to generate a rule.

Last summer a woman stood in the midst of our store talking in full voice on her phone while her two young kids ran around. When one of them asked her, “Can we get this candy?” she snapped back, “Can’t you see I’m on the phone.” After she left, we decided we needed a new rule. We put up a nice colorful sign on the door, which says “Welcome! You are entering a cell phone free zone.”

Does it work? In fact, one day this summer a man came in and dropped his cell phone on the counter by the cash register. He picked it up when he paid the bill.

Annual Father’s Day Trek

Monday, June 11th, 2012

By Jean Webster

The coming of Father’s Day takes me back to those days when we left our winter home in Sullivan County for our summer place in Maine. One year John insisted that (a) we’d take the kids out of school early (classes in New York ended in late June) and that (b) we’d leave on Father’s Day, head east, stop in Connecticut for breakfast before continuing our eight-hour trip.

“We’ll find some place to stop around Danbury,” he assured us. Stephen and Kim were so young then, they had very little say in the matter.

Just as though he knew we’d find his new favorite place near Danbury, there was a sign – “Father’s Day Breakfast, All You Can Eat, Ramada Inn.” Long tables were laden with serving dishes holding bacon, scrambled eggs, pancakes, hash browns, and more bacon. John’s food heaven has always been filled with rashers of bacon, which we seldom eat at home.

That perfect Father’s Day breakfast set the pattern for our annual trip to Maine.

And, every year, our car was stuffed with everything we four needed for the next few months. Clothing, especially for those kids who kept growing, so we couldn’t leave things to use the following year. Summer clothes, sure, but warm clothes too, because summer in Maine isn’t like summer elsewhere. Some people say it’s more like – well – winter.

In addition to the four humans in the car, we had Rocky, a shepherd-collie mix and Velvet, a Maine cat who was confined to a wooden lobster crate.  Big Vel didn’t travel well. He mewed. He barfed, he did everything you’d expect an animal to do in an unhappy eight-hour ride.

This trip included many stops – bathroom, walk the dog, clean out the cat’s box, switch drivers, more food, candy, drinks. We’d discovered that the best way to keep our kids happy in the back seat was with plenty of food and snacks. When they started whining or fighting, the non-driver would dive into the cooler or bag of goodies and toss something into the back seat.

Of course, we played all the usual games:  I spy. The alphabet game. The license plate game. And the “educational” game – 20 Questions.

Another favorite stop was an old Chinese Restaurant in Haverhill, Mass., where the kids found a couple of dishes they would eat. The ever popular Pu Pu Platter, with fried rice and some little pork slices. Not gourmet, but filling.

“Remember the Fudgeanna,” refers to a trip when the kids were around 10 and 7. We were at a Howard Johnson’s for our ice cream break, sitting at a big counter with other customers. The ice cream menu showed this giant square dish with four scoops of ice cream – enough for our whole family. Of course, sharing was out, so I said, “No, get something smaller – one scoop each.” A whine went up around the counter. My proposal was vetoed, not just by our kids, but by John and other people sitting there. “Oh, let them try,” someone said. It goes without saying that three-plus scoops remained in both square glass dishes when they quit.

After years of taking the same route, eating at the same restaurants, things became pretty tired. We started reading aloud to each other. Stephen and I were into fantasy and we read “The Hobbit,” then “Watership Down,” and “Shardik.” That kept us happy for a while.

The real change came when we added a second car. A Volkswagen Bug, which Stephen drove to high school. That split us up, and gave us room for more “stuff.” The most memorable trip in that period was Father’s Day 1979, during the Energy Crisis. Stephen and I were traveling in the Bug. It was Sunday, fewer gas stations open on the highway. I was concerned we’d run out of gas, so for a while we exited frequently looking for an open station. But we didn’t run out of gas, and we decided to just go on. It all worked out.

Life went on. The kids went off. We left New York to spend winters in Portland and five months farther up the coast. The trip is about an hour and a half, and we start transporting “stuff” early, so we’re ready to move in when it’s warm enough. Stuff today includes about 20 house plants, food, some warm clothes, and other items I can’t live without in any season. No dog. No cat. Just us.  Father’s Day is quieter, breakfast is blueberry pancakes or waffles, and calls from the kids.

Memorial Day

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Small Town Memorial Day, East Boothbay, Maine, 2005

By Jean Webster

People gather this chilly morning on a bend in the road
Just below the hill where a white church sits.
Some face the memorial erected years ago
Some look out over the river where two shipyards still
Send ships and boats off into the world.
Others face the Mill Pond, but few here recall
Its working days.

Several generations are represented, from sweet toddlers to elders
Who remember too many wars, too many young people dead
Or permanently impaired in body or mind. Men in uniforms
From several wars march together, lift their feet in unison
Turn to face the memorial as an army would
United in their actions – perhaps in their thoughts as well.
A lone trumpeter plays Taps, the notes soaring over the pond
Followed by a reverent silence. The player rejoins the band
For the Star-Spangled Banner and the drums beat the cadence
For the marching men.

Young people on bikes stream in, park and join the crowd.
Children holding American flags watch with solemn faces
Listen for echoes of the guns over the water. Even their dogs are quiet.
The minister speaks of past wars, reminding us about the “War to End
All Wars,” an optimistic expression now part of our language.
But we know better.
The minister reminds us that each year
Fewer towns and cities gather their people to pay tribute.
As this small town has today.

Waving flags and marching feet end the Memorial Day observance.
The flag-waving children march in a group, their faces bright
Looking forward to the next event, the next moment in their lives.
May they carry with them the memory of this day
The minister’s prayerful words, the sweet toddlers,
The elders and the men in uniform, all united in a single cause.
For now.

A New Library Rises in Grahamsville

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

By Jean Webster

It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child. In Grahamsville, it has taken a community of people to raise a new library, one that dwarfs the 1898 original, which still stands.

When my husband and I visited Grahamsville recently, we were amazed by the size and beauty of the new building. What an undertaking for this community, where we lived for 30 years. To think that a group of people in this hamlet of about 2,000 could raise enough money to build a new library boggles the mind.

The first Daniel Pierce Library was a cozy place, as old fashioned as the era in which it was built. It was always busy with people borrowing books, reading newspapers, or heading to meetings. The Boy Scouts met upstairs, and in the basement were groups like the Alchemy Club (poets who met monthly), the Monday Art Group, and others.

But the library board eventually recognized that the building was so crowded that they couldn’t order new books without disposing of old ones. A new building was needed, but how to afford it in a town and county far from prospering?

In 1898 there was a rich patron. Daniel Pierce, the founder, had grown up on nearby Thunder Hill, but he went west to make his fortune. Near the end of the 19th century, Pierce visited his hometown, and discovered that the only library was in a small storefront that also housed the funeral parlor. He donated seed money to build a public library with the condition that it be named for him. But Pierce never endowed the library, which had to be supported by the town after it was built.

The 21st century’s library construction became a community project, much like the building of a medieval cathedral in 12th century Europe. Joann Gallagher, the longtime librarian, says one person – Grahamsville resident Phil Coombe Jr. – spearheaded the plan to build the new library, to raise the needed funds, and to find workers.

Coombe, a former state corrections commissioner involved in the building of several prisons, said he wanted the town to have a library that would last 100 years.

A large portion of the money for the construction was gathered through community grants and construction grants from the New York Public Library System. Additional funds came from people in Grahamsville and the surrounding area. Smaller donors who gave more than once included Tri-Valley School children, who contributed their pennies, dimes and nickels. Ann Holt, a Grahamsville resident and retired Sullivan County Community College science professor, has donated over $300,000 and will have a room named for her in the new library.

I remember the Pumpkin Parties, which originated in the 1990s to generate money for the library. The parties still take place every October at the Fairgrounds, and are a great place for families to celebrate Halloween and the arrival of autumn. Though the proceeds aren’t huge, all go to the library.

But money wasn’t the only commodity local people gave. Just as in medieval times, Gallagher told me, local artisans, plumbers, architects, and woodworkers offered their time and expertise. In fact, anything the building needed doing was done by volunteers. Vendors even supplied materials at cost. Gallagher calls all these people “fabulously generous.”

It’s a beautiful building, constructed and furnished inside and out with style and thoughtfulness. It will be used for all those meetings and large events, maybe even weddings.

In addition, a museum dedicated to the towns of Mantela, Lackawack, Eureka, Old Neversink and Bittersweet – all flooded out during the constriction of the nearby Rondout and Neversink Reservoirs – has been added to the library building with funding from New York City. Fittingly, this Time and the Valley Museum joins the new Daniel Pierce Library at the center of town.

Snowe Takes a Hike

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Olympia Snowe

By Jean Webster
Senator Olympia Snowe has been all over the news since her surprising announcement that she’s through dealing with what she called “an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies” in Congress.

Since then, the question has arisen about whether Maine without Olympia Snowe would be like Massachusetts without Ted Kennedy, both of whom served in the Senate for decades, he for 47 years, she for a total of 34 years in the House and Senate (plus five years in the Maine Legislature before that).

My immediate response is “no.”

I respect Snowe as a person who often did good work, without keeping her name in the public eye. But as a lifelong Democrat, I never voted for her.

Of course there were years when I wasn’t in Kennedy’s corner either. These were the times when his personal behavior more than embarrassed his family and his country, culminating in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. It was the low point in his life and ruined any chance to be president, though over time he worked his way back from spoiled rich guy to patriarch of his family and beloved senator who was admired by several of his ideological opposites in the Senate.

But, besides that personal conduct, there were vast differences between Ted Kennedy and Olympia Snowe. He was a public person, frequently seen in the news, not only in his home state but in the national and international media and had a far more public persona than Snowe. Despite their differing personalities, Snowe and Kennedy worked closely together, particularly on defense issues.

Snowe has served on a number of important committees in Congress – Small Business, Intelligence, Commerce, Science and Transportation – but she’s seldom seen in the news. It seems she prefers to remain in the background.

Between Snowe and Susan Collins – Maine’s other Republican Senator – Collins wins hands down in getting her face and name on television and radio, and in print. Probably three to five times more often. If Snowe has a statement to make, she does it quietly and without fanfare. Perhaps she’s more like Maine’s first woman senator, Margaret Chase Smith, another Republican, who worked quietly yet who was one of the first members of the Senate to stand up to condemn the tactics of Joseph McCarthy in 1950.

What will Snowe be remembered for? It will be her centrist views and her attempts to get beyond partisan politics. Recently, both she and Collins were called the most moderate Republicans in Congress. In 2010, they were two of the three Republicans to support President Obama’s financial reform bill.

Although Maine voted wholeheartedly for Barak Obama, people here are very loyal to their two Republican senators. I think it’s the Town Meeting mentality; every March, Mainers convene in town halls to vote for those who will run their local governments. In a mostly rural state, these are their neighbors, their friends. In Maine, we vote for the person, not the party.

In 2008, I made phone calls for Tom Allen, the Democrat running against Susan Collins. Remember, I was calling only Democrats. But many I spoke with said yes on Obama, no on Allen. When I asked why, they would invariably cite a personal story about how “Susan” helped them. No problem about crossing party lines. I understand that Susan’s not Olympia, but to me it’s an attitude here in this state – about people and about how to vote.

Perhaps it’s this attitude of fairness that Olympia Snowe misses in the Senate of the 21st century.

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